Oct
22
2016
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Indie Author Day 2016

untitled-design15 October 8th: Tamara and I drove out to Yuma, Az to take part in the Yuma County Library's Indie Author Day, organized by the SELF-e program.

SELF-e is powered by Library Journal and acts as a kind of matchmaking service to help Indie authors get their ebooks into the library system. It's slowly rolling out across the US and Canada, so not every library is a part of the program yet. SELF-e contacted me a couple of years ago and asked if I was interested.

Um… yes! I grew up in libraries. They are a vital part of the local community, bringing the joy of books to everyone.  I absolutely would love to support the libraries. I entered both my fantasy novels into the SELF-e program.

I was astonished in 2015 when they contacted me to tell me that my Necromancer had placed in the top 3 most-read Indie fantasy category. Wow!

Then earlier in 2016 they contacted me again asking if I wanted to be a part of Indie Author Day. Again… hello… yes! The plan was that I would give a 45 minute presentation as an intro to Indie Publishing and then take part in a Q&A panel with two other authors. It was a total blast and the audience asked fantastic questions.

Before we get to the photos, I want to thank Becky and Vanna at Yuma Central Library for organizing the event and making us feel so welcome. They bought us dinner the night before and were a crucial part of the whole event going smoothly. Thanks both of you! Wonderful hosts!

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Here's the panel. In the center is PNR author Melissa Stevens and on the left, Christine Howard. I had a great time sharing the Q&A session with them. Very knowledgeable and friendly folk.

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Feb
27
2016
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Bookbub

BookPileIn February 2016, I ran a week-long promotion with Bookbub. For those unfamiliar with the name, it's a service that emails readers informing them of free or heavily discounted books. It is reckoned to be the best promotional service for a book, guaranteed to reach tens or hundreds of thousands of readers interested specifically in a genre – in my case, Fantasy.

Bookbub US is notoriously difficult to get accepted into. They are very picky to guarantee their readers get the best deals. It's not uncommon to be rejected several times before getting a slot. But this time, I opted for Bookbub non-US. Easier to get into, but smaller audiences.

I paid $140 to get Necromancer mailed to readers in the UK, Canada and India. The $3.99 ebook would be discounted to 99c, a total steal. The discount would be available for 7 days on Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Nook and Google Play. Bookbub predicted I would sell 410 books.

Let's see how I did…

Here's the very typical sales graph (From Amazon), where one sees a huge spike day 1 when all those readers open their Bookbub emails. The sales taper off as the week goes on.

Bookbub_KDP

To put this into perspective, currently, 18 months after this books' launch, I am selling about 1 copy/day on Amazon. That first day I sold 231! I was still selling about 16-20 per day at the end of the week.

In total, across all retailers, I sold 529 books. In a week. Now, Stephen King probably sells this many of a single book per day, or even per hour, but this is a big number for me.

Let's see how this breaks down…

BookbubRetailers

BookbubCountries

So what did I make? Total Earnings: $217. This gave me a profit of $77, but the goal of the promotion was to get my book into the hands of more readers, especially outside of the US. More readers means more potential fans, more reviews, more word-of-mouth sales, etc. Making a profit on the promotion is simply good business sense.

For any authors out there wondering about Bookbub, I think my results speak for themselves.

 

Dec
10
2015
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I’m interviewed for Blondie & The Brit

 

Featuring the fantastic author/writing podcast: Blondie & The Brit, who interviewed me last week. It was a lot of fun and we cover a variety of topics.

Play the interview

You can also right click on the destination page if you want to download it.

 

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Mar
08
2014
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Editors – how to deal with deadlines

writing_book First world problems for authors: Editor deadlines. How much of a stressor is this for the modern author?

Though authors have worked with publishing and editorial deadlines ever since some ancient druid told his craftsman “Finish runes on this stone before setting sun at solstice, or Gods seek revenge!”, I believe deadlines have grown tougher in recent years. Why? Since the advent of Indie publishing there are hundreds of thousands more authors seeking the help of a pool of editors that have likely not expanded so radically. Put simply – there are too many manuscripts seeking too few editors.

It is not atypical these days to have to reserve your spot with your editor up to a year in advance, to get into their busy schedule. Good editors are in demand! I’m lucky to have an awesome editor, which means I had to book ahead.

It’s great to get locked in, but then I faced a dilemma: If I book too far in the future, my completed manuscript will be sitting around, and not out earning me readers and cash. Book too soon and I’ll end up scrambling to be finished. I set a reasonable date that seemed so far into the future that we’d have those flying cars we were promised, or at least warp drive; but no – that deadline came hurtling toward me like a freight train! I’m still polishing now, just a few weeks before my hand-in deadline. Fellow author friends have been forced to put in incredible hours to meet their own punishing deadlines. It’s a big stressor on an author, right at the time we are so ready to let our literary baby fly the nest (read as “I’m tired of this damn thing, make it go away!”)

In preparing for this piece, I spoke to a handful of editors, and most of them told me they are turning authors away, so as to better serve their existing clients. Wow – what a position to be in. Sounds enviable, but remember that editors are voracious readers, and it must pain them to turn down a manuscript that sounds awesome, just because it won’t fit their busy schedule. You can bet they’re going to turn down the irritating applicants first, so:

How to be professional with your editor:

  • Never argue or push them with regards scheduling. They are unlikely to upset existing clients by rushing you to the head of the line. No, you aren’t that important.
  • Keep them abreast of your own schedule and plans. If you warn them of changes ahead of time, they are more likely to accommodate you
  • Be flexible. If one of their clients cancels and they have a free slot, maybe it’s worth a ton of extra work to get your m/s ready to fill it.
  • Similarly, accept that they might hit road blocks that causes them to take a little longer. Life gets in the way of all of us.
  • Polish your m/s to the best of your abilities first. Don’t give your editor sloppy work full of obvious typos and glaring errors. He/she might not work with you again.
  • Pay on time
  • Format your m/s to their specifications, get it to them a few days before the due date, and provide good contact details in case they hit a snag.
  • Learn to assess how long it takes you to write a book

The last point deserves attention. If you want to be a professional writer, you have to be able to measure and assess how long drafts take you, how long your beta-readers will take, how long your rewrites will take. Learn these numbers for you and allow for disruptions in your schedule, be it day job, vacations or even the mythical “writer’s block” (more on that in another post).

Your editor is your best business relationship as an author. Nurture it. Thank your editor, work with them, always be polite. Editors make our books look great – don’t annoy them. Publishing is a small industry and some editors trade blacklists, so don’t ever mistreat an editor. Or anyone you interact with.

Oh, and for goodness sake, cough up to send them a signed paperback, or a free ebook at the very least. They’re probably proud of their part in making the book shine, or at the very least they can burn the copy to vent their frustration at working with you, if you’ve been an annoying client. :)

Authors, please share your experiences with editors. Editors, please jump in with advice. The comments section is open for business…

 

Nov
28
2013
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Book Reading Survey

Book Hello everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving to those that celebrate it!

Just for a bit of fun, I thought I’d post a short survey about book reading preferences. If you read novels or novellas (and if you don’t why are you here? ;) ), please take a couple of minutes to complete my survey.

I’m not sure if you will be able to see the results on the destination site, but if not I’ll be sure to post them here at a later date.

Take the survey

Thanks for taking part!

Oct
05
2013
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Why my book was free for 5 days

KDPS I recently made Ocean of Dust FREE for 5 days on Kindle. Worldwide, anyone could obtain my book for absolutely nothing. Um… aren’t I writing books to make money? Well yes… and no. Why (and how) did I make my book free to so many people?

First the How

Most authors, especially in the Indie scene, are familiar or at least have heard of Amazon’s KDP Select program. It has two components:

  1. You make your book(s) exclusive to Amazon for 90 days. Your book is entered into their Kindle Owners Lending Library, meaning that subscribers to Amazon Prime (incidentally one of the best time and money savers on the planet!) can borrow your book on the Kindle for free. Amazon actually pays you for these too.
  2. For 5 days, any time within that 90 days, you can make your Kindle Book free. This is optional but usually the primary reason authors put their books into KDPS, as we will see below.

The caveat to this program is that your book has to be exclusive to Amazon. That means you must withdraw your book from all other distributors, i.e. Kobo, Nook, SmashWords, Apple’s iBooks etc. Authors, consider this carefully. By un-publishing your book from other distributors you are limiting your audience to Kindle users only, and buying in to the idea of a monopoly, albeit a limited 90 day one. After 90 days, you can either extend your time in KDPS or withdraw, and are then free to re-publish your book through other distributors. Caveat: Doing so negates any ranking you might have built with them, and your book starts from scratch again.

So Ocean of Dust remains in KDPS at its usual $2.99 price point until December 18th, and then I will withdraw from KDPS and re-publish across all formats. Ideally I want my book available in all formats. I am a firm believer in healthy competition and a reader’s freedom to choose any ebook device.

Why give my book away?

As a debut author, my experience was typical of 95% of first time Indie publishers. After almost a year, sales on my book were flagging. The reviews on Ocean of Dust remain high (4.7+ out of 5) and I am thrilled to have received very kind words from readers. The largest problem debut authors face is getting known, getting the book in front of more people. Audience is far more important than sales, especially in the early days when an author has to earn the respect and loyalty of readers one by one.

So I needed a big promotion. There are literally thousands of services that can help promote an author and his book, but there is one kind of promotion that beats all: Something for nothing! Who can turn that offer down? :) OK, so I could have just made my book free on all formats and promoted it thus. That would work great, but KDPS offers something even better: Book charts that are read by millions of people.

Here’s how that works. Make a book free on KDPS and promote it. As people download it, it starts to climb up the charts, maybe from #10,000 in the Fantasy category to #2000. More downloads, higher ranking. Amazon is smart. They put those rankings right on the book page so a reader can view them. Everyone likes to check out a popular book, right? Once the book hits the Top 100 then the lists become more visible, and downloads increase. The Top 10 lists are constantly checked by savvy readers.

Technical details aside, the more people I can get to download the book, the more people hear about me. Simple!

Sort of. Just being in the Top 10 doesn’t mean an automatic download. The book needs to have a compelling title, cover and interesting blurb. Never skimp on those things.  Also, we all know that downloading a free book doesn’t mean that it will get read. Some people just like free things, others want to get it before the price goes up. It might languish on their Kindle for weeks, months, even years. If just 10% of all downloads are read, I have just increased my audience considerably. And if it isn’t read… well, they probably wouldn’t have bought it anyway. It’s a win-win.

Before we go into the additional benefits, I’m sure you want to see the numbers, right?

The numbers

The highest rankings I achieved over the 5 days: (Remember these are Free charts, Paid charts are separate)

  • #44 of ALL free books on the Kindle
  • #1 in Fantasy – Swords and Sorcery
  • #1 in Teen/Young Adult

I’m very happy with that.

Country Downloads
USA 6406
Germany 161
UK 154
Canada 42
India 13
France 3
Brazil 3
Italy 2
Japan 1
TOTAL 6785

I know, we are used to seeing bestsellers in the millions, making these numbers look pitiful, but these are many times my previous sales.

Other Benefits

  • The Germany and India numbers were a large surprise. The UK I expected. I have since been contacted by over a dozen readers in Germany who have read and enjoyed the book. My first major push into a non-English country. :)
  • I was also surprised just how many people read the book in the first couple of days. That supports my theory that getting the book in front of people does work.
  • Within days, my social media numbers increased: Facebook, Twitter, visitors to my site, adds to GoodReads, subscribers to my newsletter. I’m sure these will continue to increase over the coming months as more folk get around to reading the book.
  • I have received dozens and dozens of notes from people wanting to know when my next book came out. That to me is the real success: turning casual readers into fans.
  • Even if a person did not download my book, they likely saw my name on the Kindle charts. When they see my next book, hopefully that spark of recognition will make them more likely to look further.
  • Most importantly, I have already made a bunch of new friends, readers and authors, since my promotion.

More on Promotion

A huge, huge thank you to everyone who helped me promote the giveaway by telling your friends, sharing my posts, tweeting etc. You guys helped big time, and I really do appreciate it!

This last bit is for the benefit of Indie authors. A friend did a similar KDPS  experiment a couple of weeks before mine. My numbers were much higher. Not because I had the better book, but because I took a few extra steps than he, and I strongly advise you do similar if considering 5-free days on KDPS:

  • Investigate the hordes of web sites that will promote your book, particularly those specializing in Kindle freebies. A google search will show a ton of them. Most are free. I used 12 such services for a total of $20. Choose carefully and be sure to go for the ones that operate email lists. If someone has subscribed to a list, they are obviously hungry for books.
  • Approach the bigger names like Bookbub. They operate genre-specific email lists and some of them have a quarter of a million subscribers on them.
  • Post to all the social media sites. This should go without saying. If you’ve been reciprocating sharing and tweeting for fellow authors, they are going to be happy to help you spread the word.
  • If you are sending emails, e.g. a newsletter, or to friends or family, be careful how you phrase your promotion. “FREE for 5-days only” is likely to hit spam filters, so be creative.
  • The one thing I didn’t do, and should have, was a Facebook Ad. For a small cost you can hit a huge number of people.

Conclusion

KDPS is widely debated among authors, some claiming incredible success, others none. I am extremely happy with the publicity I received for $20. :)

Would I do it again? Not if I am consistently selling across all ebook formats. If I had a well-received book whose sales are flagging, then maybe.

 

[KDP Select and the graphic above are trademarks and copyright of Amazon.com]

 

Apr
29
2013
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Are self-publishing and ebooks destroying our bookstore heritage?

BarnesNobleThere has been considerable press for years about what effect self-publishing and ebooks are having on our literary culture, be it bookstores and libraries or even literary masterpieces themselves. I’m sure you’ve all heard the rhetoric that allowing “normal” folk to publish whatever they want with no agent or publisher to act as a gatekeeper for quality, will result in a deluge of crap flooding the markets. On the face if it, it’s a valid concern; no one wants to wade through junk to find a gem of entertainment, any form of entertainment.

Ebooks and self-publishing hit mainstream consciousness about 5 years ago, give or take. Ask yourself: Do you find yourself buying dross time and again and being unable to find anything decent to read? I would hazard to guess that this is NOT your situation, or indeed anyone’s. Survey after survey have shown that the single most important factor influencing whether you buy a book is word of mouth. Did your family and friends enthuse about it? Have you read dozens or hundreds of reviews recommending it? There are far too many books in the world for you to just pick one up on spec, with no reader feedback, and decide to try it. How often do you do that?

 

This, of course, makes it much harder for we, the new authors, to make our mark. We represent that last scenario: an author you’ve never heard of with little to recommend us. But even as an author struggling to reach a wider audience, I argue that this is ok. Really. Respect is earned. With every book I write, first a couple of hundred, then thousands of readers will try me out, like what they read and review my books favorably, and – hopefully – tell all their friends. It’s an apprenticeship system. Sure, some debut authors break out big, but for every one of them, there are likely 10,000 of us slowly building our reputation. It forms a self-filtering system to keep out all the crap that doomsayers are so concerned about. If I write crap then who will buy my next book? Who will recommend it? It’s literary Darwinism.

Over the last year or two, Scott Turow has dished out considerable damnation of self-publishing and ebooks, claiming they are destroying our literary heritage. Turow, for those unfamiliar, is the President of the Author’s Guild. I won’t even try to debunk his fanciful naysaying here, suffice to say that numerous writers more eloquent than myself have done so: Barry Eisler, David Gaughran, Joe Konrath, Forbes magazine. It does seem as if, far from representing all authors, large and small, as you’d expect the head of the Author’s Guild to do, he is simply trying to preserve the old way of life for the elite bestsellers paid substantial sums by publishing companies.

No, I’m not going to trash publishers, agents, nor traditionally published authors. I just happen to believe, like a growing number of authors, that self-publishing and ebooks simply ADD to our literary heritage. Having already debunked the “more-is-crap” myth above, then having more books, more authors, more ideas in more formats can only be a good thing for everyone. A very good thing. This is what freedoms are all about: seek an agent and a contract with a large publisher, or do it yourself. Is one better than the other? No. Is one easier than the other? No.

A couple of weeks ago, James Patterson, yes THE James Patterson, took out a full page ad on the rear of the NYT Review, in which he stated ,in no uncertain terms, that self-publishing and ebooks are destroying bookstores, libraries and the very concept of classic literature! Wow. The sky is falling! He went on to suggest that the government bail out the publishing industry like it did the auto industry. **Speechless**. Patterson is a damn fine author, but I just lost respect for him. Here’s his defense of that ad in Salon.

Didn’t we hear similar arguments when music moved to MP3′s and iTunes? Wasn’t that supposed to destroy our rich culture of music and fill it with crap, destroying the industry? And, yeah, it did. No wait, no it didn’t. Music today is vibrant with an eclectic mix of major bands, solo artists, garage bands and Indies, and the consumer is sucking up content and reveling in the choice. Sure, we no longer see gargantuan music stores like Tower and Virgin but does that really matter?  OK, one can probably prove that ebooks are leading to the closure of big-chain bookstores, and we can argue that bookstores are different than music stores, because there is that culture of wandering around, touching books, drinking coffee and reading in easy chairs. But there is absolutely no reason we can’t enjoy that today if companies would simply embrace change and adapt. What’s wrong with wandering into Barnes & Noble with your ereader, sinking into a chair, downloading samples of books to try, while sipping your latte? As for boutique, used bookstores, they will likely remain for decades to come, in the same way that vinyl music stores do. Some bands are even releasing new material on vinyl for the discerning audiophile. I’m sure there will always be a demand for gorgeously produced books, maybe first or special editions and omnibuses. Those little mom and pop bookstores are likely to survive longer than the big chains, and that’s a good thing. In my experience, the little stores are run by bibliophiles for the love of books, whereas chains are run for pure profit.

Amazon always seems to be the scapegoat for claims that ebooks are destroying paper books and bookstores. Ask yourself just why this “demon of literary destruction” called Amazon became so popular? Could it be that their prices were more reasonable, their selection greater, and the fact that most people probably don’t want to traipse down to their bookstore – they want to download their book right now, while they are reading in bed or in the garden? If people didn’t want Amazon’s services, it wouldn’t be the giant it is today, as simple as that. It is part of the human condition to lament “the good old days”, but that doesn’t always gel with our actual actions. Amazon moves with the times too – it embraced ebooks and then self-publishing, and, again, these things have become so rabidly popular among authors and readers because that is what people want.

I’d love to hear what you think? Are self-publishing and ebooks destroying our literary heritage? Is it all going to end in tears and a sea of dross, or a new era of choice and fresh talent?

 

Jan
12
2013
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Analysis of how people are reading Ocean of Dust

Ocean of Dust has been out for over 2 months now. Being the nerd and geek that I am, I did some analysis on my sales. No, I’m not ready to give actual numbers so early in the game, but I did analyze what formats readers are choosing. It will be interesting to see if this data holds true after 12 months.

Here is the percentage of sales across every format that I offer:

OODPie2012

I was surprised by the percentage of Nook and Paperbacks, particularly because the paperback didn’t arrive until 8th December. I had expected to see 95% Kindle.

Authors, I would love to see your breakdown by percentage. Please post a link to your chart in the comments below, or just list your percentages. I’d be happy to aggregate the data if you send it to me. Go on… it’ll be fun. :)

 

Jan
12
2013
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Interview with me by Heather Day Gilbert

Recently, I was thrilled to answer some questions posed by a great writer friend of mine, Heather Day Gilbert. Among other projects, she is trying to find a publisher for her fantastic-sounding Viking novel. I can’t wait to read it.

In this interview, we talk about writing YA, world building and Indie publishing. It was a lot of fun. Thanks, Heather! :)

Dec
27
2012
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Interview with me about Indie Publishing

Hello all, and I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas (or other holiday).

A little while ago, Candace, at the fabulous Candace’s Book Blog, invited me for an interview. I had a lot of fun answering her in-depth questions about Indie Publishing.

Take a look at the interview!

If you’re an avid reader, or interested in the latest publishing trends, I recommend you follow Candace.

Have a great New Years and I hope you all have a super 2013.

 

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